Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden

Most visitors to the U.S. capitol, even art-lovers, miss seeing the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden. Sunken below ground level, it is overlooked by tourists agape at the city's major landmarks on the Mall.

What's to see there? Besides Rodin's Burghers of Calais? How about five Henry Moores?

Working Model for 'Three-Way Piece No. : Vertebrae', Henry Moore, 1968

Three-Piece Reclining Figure No. 2: Bridge Pop, Henry Moore, 1963

Draped Reclining Figure, Henry Moore, 1952-53

King and Queen, Henry Moore, 1952-53

Seated Woman, Henry Moore, 1956-57
The layout of the sculpture garden, with its trees and walls, allows the viewer to discover no more than two or three monuments at a time, a surprise around every corner.

A few of the many notable works:

Horse and Rider,  Marino Marini,  1952-53

Sphere No. 6, Arnaldo Pomodoro, 1963-64

Figure, Jacques Lipchitz, 1926-30
Above ground, beside the walkway to the Hirshhorn's entrance, was this very moving sculpture in bronze. It consists of five figures, three clustered together and two spaced well away from them.

Last Conversation Piece, Juan Muñoz, 1994-5
Last Conversation Piece, Juan Muñoz, 1994-5 (detail)
The absence of legs lends the figures an immobility or at least a paralytically slow speed of movement. There is a palpable sense of social exclusion, and ensuing alarm or even panic.

And finally, on a humourous note, this large piece in steel, titled Subcommittee: a carousel of rubber stamps, with their handles resembling the heads of the committee members.
Subcommittee, Tony Cragg, 1991

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Petit mais GRAND

Well, that worked out well....

I have been invited to participate in a small format show, organized by the regional art group Autour de Nous. Forty to fifty artists will each produce four works measuring 6" x 6" that will be hung together in a 2 x 2 arrangement. A few 3-D works, no more than 8" tall, will be included. The show, titled Petit mais GRAND, aims to offer affordable, original art in a wide variety of media to the community.

No doubt the organizers were expecting me to submit works in fibre, but when I suggested these little collages, made as an assignment for my current on-line Jane Davies class, they thought that would be fine too. Tentative titles: Jazz Fest 1, Jazz Fest 2, etc. Suggestions welcome!

The show will be held at the Galérie Éphémère, 418 Avenue St.-Charles, Vaudreuil-Dorion, April 24 - May 7. A vernissage is planned for Thursday, April 21, from 6 - 10 pm.

It's just great when completing a class assignment actually helps you meet a deadline for an upcoming show and propels you forward on a path to finding a new direction for your work. Can't you just see these in a bigger format? Maybe in cloth?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Beyond the Colour Wheel: Lesson 3 continued

This most recent session with Jane Davies explored saturation: bright colours vs. muted colours vs. neutrals.

The final part of Lesson 3 was quite structured and a bit intimidating. We were asked to begin by painting in a background of neutral colours, with very little range of value: either all lights or all darks. I decided to work with six 6" x 6" squares of paper, taped to a board. (I know, I know.... What kind of colour class is this? Where's the colour?)

We were then to choose a limited palette of analogous colours, and work with these colours in muted form. There was to be little value contrast. I chose yellow-orange, orange and orange-red, dulled down by adding neutrals, green, blue, and/or white. We were to use these colours to paint in a loose cruciform structure.

Then we were to add a few collaged shapes, sticking with the same muted colours.

The next step was to add more collaged shapes, but now using the brightest versions of the colours.

Finally, we were to add a tiny accent of either a complementary colour (in this case turquoise or blue) or a dark. I had some printed deli papers on hand that I had prepared some time ago, stamped with black and white paint, and they proved to be just what I needed to add a bit of excitement. You can see the results below. 

This exercise is a way of creating depth in your design. In nature, objects in the distance lose their colour saturation, becoming greyed. They also lose their detail. This activity capitalizes on this phenomenon, with softly blended neutral colours in the background, more defined but dull colours in the middle ground, bright colours in the foreground, and high contrast added as a top layer. Ingenious! This approach also creates quiet areas of subtly blended neutrals set off by vibrant areas of saturation and high value contrast. Yum!

The final results, below, were scanned rather than photographed to give a better idea of their true colours.

I plan to mount these onto 6 x 6 canvases and hang them as a group of at least four.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Beyond the Colour Wheel: Lesson 3

The on-line class on colour theory with Jane Davies continues. This time, we are looking at reducing the saturation or brightness of colours. This can be done by mixing in white (to make a tint) or black (to make a shade) or grey (to make a tone.)

Here you can see how I began with a bright pure colour (Cadmium Red, Permanent Green Light or Pyrrole Orange) and reduced the saturation by mixing in increments of a neutral grey until I had a full range of tones. The special requirement of this exercise was to choose a grey of the same value as the original colour, so that all the colours have the same value. To check on whether the values are equivalent, I used photo software to "take out the colour", leaving nothing but value. That result is below. Notice how the eye can be tricked into thinking a bright colour is lighter than it really is.

Another approach to creating a desaturated colour is to mix it with a neutral colour other than grey. Here are my colour swatches for this second exercise:

Beautiful, subtle colours, aren't they? I love this mix of the bright and the earth tones. Of course, the values changed from left to right in this exercise, because I was lightening the original colour with a light neutral, going from Bright to Light.

Yet another approach to neutralizing bright colours is to mix them with their complements. In the range below, you can see what happened as I added increments of Permanent Light Green to Quinachridone Red. Slowly, the red becomes duller until it is a true neutral, neither red nor green. In the second row, you can see what results when white is added to the neutralized colours.

Next up, I began with the bright Pyrrole Orange and added tiny amounts of Phthalo Blue, its complement. Again, the result is a neutral grey, and you can see in the first four swatches of the second row just what happens when white is added to that neutral grey.

Finally, when tiny amounts of purple are added to yellow, the result is a warm neutral, and in the second row you can see what happens when white is added to these neutrals.

I can really appreciate the subtle, complicated beauty of these neutral and muted tones, and plan to use more of them in my work. To achieve them in hand-dyed cloth, I could 
  •  add small amounts of grey, beige or tan dye to brightly-coloured dye, 
  •  add tiny amounts of a complementary colour (green to red, for example),
  •  overdye cloth that has been dyed a bright colour with a neutral or  complementary colour, OR
  •  purchase dye ready-mixed to produce a more subtle colour.
Paint is so much easier to work with than dye. Maybe I should just paint the cloth!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Loving Vincent - a unique film

A fascinating process is underway in Gdansk, Poland, where one hundred artists are at work on oil paintings that will be made into a film about the life and death of Vincent Van Gogh. The paintings will be used at the rate of 12 per second to form a feature-length film, a first-ever initiative. Some of the footage is based on live action and other segments are simple animations of Van Gogh's own paintings.

To learn more about the project, click here.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

New pavilion at MNBAQ

Openinto the public on June 24, 2016, the new 15,000-square-metre extension to the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec will showcase Quebec art from 1960 to the present day.
artist's rendering of new pavilion
One example will be Jean-Paul Riopelle's massive 40.2-metre-long work, Tribute to Rosa Luxembourg (1992), which will be featured in a passageway between the old and new pavilions.

By almost doubling the square footage of the museum, more room is created to showcase the museum's Inuit collection and its collections of decorative and design objects.

The new pavilion is sited very visibly along Quebec city's Grande Allée, and it has a 250-person auditorium for use by museum partners. Designed by the prestigious Rotterdam-based firm Office for Metropolitan Architecture, the extension will cost more than $100 million. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Lesson 2: Beyond the Colour Wheel

We continued to explore colour and value in Lesson 2 of Jane Davies' on-line class, Beyond the Colour Wheel. Fortunately we have two weeks to do each assignment.

Part 1: Value scales with Transparent Paint

Our first project was to create value scales with transparent paints. For each colour, we made a scale of tints, first by thinning the paint with transparent glazing medium, and then by thinning it with opaque white paint.

I much preferred doing these colour studies with the white paint. The opacity made it easier for me to judge the value of the tints, and I didn't have to fuss with streaky brushstrokes. 

Part 2: Monochrome Collage

Our next assignment was to make a simple collage using 5 or 6 shades of grey. Uncannily, this turned out to look like my finger placing bits of paper into a collage!

Then, I used five shades/tints of manganese blue to translate the design into a monochromatic colour scheme. By scanning the coloured collage and de-saturating the colour using photo software, I could determine how accurate my values were. 

Similarly, I used five shades/tints of yellow-orange azo. When you darken yellows with black, they become greenish, and that's why some of these shades look like olive or brown.

I can see that the eye goes directly to the areas of highest value contrast. I prefer the third collage, perhaps because the vibrant orange adds an element missing from the blue and grey versions: warm - cool contrast? 

Part 3: Collage Paintings

Our third assignment was to take 4 or 5 colours and use them, along with their tints and shades, to make some simple compositions in a stripe format.  I used Dioxazine Purple, Cobalt Turquoise, Green-Gold and Raw Umber. 

We were to evaluate them in their full-colour version and also in a de-saturated version, stripped of colour and down to value alone. Were they interesting in their original state? In their grey-scale version? How important is value contrast in making the composition work? Colours that are quite distinct in "hue" can be indistinct when de-saturated, because they are of equal value.

I understand that high value contrast adds drama and power to the image. But sometimes I want to enjoy the juxtaposition of two hues of similar value, say chartreuse and turquoise. There can be a lovely subtlety in those combinations. Still, checking the value contrast of any composition can be illuminating, and answer the question: "Why is this not working? How can I make it more exciting?"

Sunday, March 6, 2016

A Review: 12 small Cityscapes

The second series of challenges for our Twelve by the Dozen group has come to an end. Every three months, we each produced an 8.5" x 11", featuring a colour chosen by one of the members. I decided right from the beginning to do all twelve as Cityscapes, giving me a cohesive series at the end of the three years.

So here, from first to last, are the twelve Cityscapes that I made for this series. To see the work of the other members, please visit the Twelve by the Dozen website.

Aubergine - View from the Academy
Green - Water Tower #3

Blue Hibiscus - Berkhamsted #3
Red - View from the High Line
Apricot - Water Tower #6
Grey - Port Clyde
Turquoise - Camden Town #3
Sand - Prague, Little Quarter
White - Greek Village
Marsala - Water Tower #9
Apple Green - St. Paul de Vence
Yellow - Haut-de-Cagnes

This series was fun for me and I'd like to think it taught me something about colour and composition.

Do you have a favourite? Let me know!